Developing a data breach response plan is similar to creating a business continuity plan, which spells out how an entity should respond to disasters such as fires or acts of terror. However, data breaches differ from natural disasters because they often involve confidential information, such as personal and financial data.
Create a Team
Having a data breach response plan and establishing a team to deal with the situation is essential during a breach. This team should include top executives, key IT representatives, human resources personnel, and legal experts. It is also good to involve outside cybersecurity consultants and forensic investigators for their impartial assessments and specialized knowledge. This team will identify a breach, assess its scope and impact, notify affected individuals, and determine whether it constitutes a reportable incident. They should also be responsible for containment and mitigation, which includes locking down machines, devices, and networks. In addition, they should be able to identify and preserve evidence for the investigation. A data breach can cause severe damage to consumers, mainly when thieves use stolen information to open new accounts in a victim’s name or commit tax identity theft. This is why it’s essential to create a plan for communicating with affected individuals as soon as possible. Your public affairs and media relations staff should work with your legal counsel to ensure that communications are worded clearly and straightforwardly. It’s also a good idea to have a team in place to conduct mock scenarios so that you can practice your response. This will help you to identify areas that need improvement and to understand what actions are required to mitigate a potential threat or data breach.
Identify Your Vendors
It’s a good idea to have an outside expert or team of experts ready to handle the data breach response, including forensics, PR support, and law enforcement assistance. If you choose to have these external resources, they must be vetted and included in your plan. This will help to prevent days or weeks of delays after a breach occurs. Besides identifying your response team, you should keep an organized list of third-party vendors and their level of access to your data, as well as their security rating and compliance with regulations. Make sure that these lists are updated regularly. Having backup contact details for each role if your primary point of contact is unavailable is also a good idea.
Additionally, consider requiring your vendors to work with third-party entities that use their security systems for added protection. Ensure that these companies can perform deep audit testing and are willing to share results with you. You should also determine what remedies you will offer individuals if their records are compromised in the event of a breach. This may include free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. It may also include compensation for any financial losses and emotional trauma associated with the incident.
Test Your Plan Regularly
As with any plan, you must regularly test it to ensure the steps work as intended. The best way to do this is by conducting simulations. This involves setting up a mock data breach to see how your team handles it. By doing this, you can identify any gaps and get them corrected before an actual incident happens. In addition, you can also use the simulation to train your staff on the steps they will need to take if the event does occur. This helps to reduce the stress and chaos that can be associated with a cyberattack. It can also help to save costs and mitigate damage. The plan should clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of your staff members. It should also include how they must escalate the breach to a response team. This will allow you to meet regulatory compliance requirements. In addition, the plan should contain a list of remedies for affected individuals. This includes things like credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. The plan should also contain details on how you will notify your affected customers and the media. Remember to consult with law enforcement about when you will be able to release this information so that it does not impede the investigation. Also, make sure to make your website’s FAQs clear and understandable.
Document Your Response
During your response, it is essential to document everything. This includes the information collected from affected consumers, remediation efforts, and what steps are being taken to avoid similar breaches in the future. It is also critical to record all interviews with those involved. This can include employees, contractors, and service providers contacted during the response process. Documenting forensic evidence and not destroying it while investigating or recovering from the incident is necessary. Finally, the plan should detail how you communicate with customers, staff, and the media. This should include prepared statements for each group that can be released at appropriate times depending on the breach’s impact. Developing a data breach response plan is a significant undertaking for any business. It should be completed well before any incidents to ensure the business has the resources and skills to manage a response when needed. Regularly testing the plan to identify gaps or potential problems is also good. Then, by putting the plan into action, you can be confident that your business is ready to handle any cybersecurity threats that may arise in the future. Those companies that have successfully recovered from data breaches often attribute their ability to recover to the planning they did in advance.